No Child Marriage in the U.S., No Exceptions!
Tell the U.S. to remove the federal child marriage exception to statutory rape
End child marriage in the U.S.
Sherry Johnson was 11 years old when she was forced to marry her rapist after giving birth to his child at 10. Sherry had five more children with her rapist before she divorced him at 17.
Between 2000 and 2015, over 260,000 minors were legally married in the United States. In Florida, where Sherry was married, the age of marriage is 18, but if you’re pregnant or have a child, a judge in Florida can approve a marriage at any age to a man of any age. You’ve read it correctly. Any age.
In 2012, at the age of 52 and spurred with a desire to make sure what happened would not happen to another child, Sherry advocated for change. She walked the legislature floors to change the laws in Florida. In 2013 she published “Forgiving the Unforgivable,” which captures the nightmare she was subjected to and the textbook outcomes for girls who are made mothers and brides without their consent: years of abuse, poverty, and mental bondage.
Sherry also started Svon Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on eradicating child marriage across the nation and changing laws and policy at all governmental levels to address the gaps in the legal system that perpetuate it. SVon Foundation brings awareness, advocacy, and support for victims of sexual abuse and child marriage.
Child marriage is harmful. It is a human rights violation that legitimizes abuse and denies girls' autonomy. When young girls are forced to marry, they are essentially subject to state-sanctioned rape and are at risk of increased domestic violence, forced pregnancy, and negative health consequences, while being denied education and economic opportunity. Equality Now and our partners advocate that the minimum age for marriage be set at 18, no exceptions.
But did you know that only four U.S. states meet this standard and that the federal government provides a child marital exception for statutory rape? Equality Now works around the world to end child, early and forced marriage, applying our legal expertise in support of partners, individual cases, and legislative efforts. The US should be no exception. Call on your US Senators and Representatives to eliminate this child marriage exception to statutory rape.
To learn more about Sherry Johnson's story, read her book: Forgiving the Unforgivable.